A trip to Iceland is a little like going to see the earth being created right under your feet. View of craters with rising steam, thermal pools, glaciers, geysers and lava. Apart from popular day trips such as the "Golden Circle" (some people call it "Golden Triangle") that leave from Reykjavik and include some of Iceland's famous attractions like geysers, Gullfoss Waterfalls and Thingvellir, there are also numerous lesser-known places that offer the same kind of raw beauty that characterizes Iceland, but with less people around.


The Foot of the Iceberg

On the northwestern coast of Iceland, on the Snæfellsnes peninsula two small villages are located adjacent to each, Hellnar and Arnarstapi. These villages sit at the foot of the Snaefellsjökull iceberg, probably Iceland's most famous volcano. The iceberg and surrounding area are considered one of the mystical energy centers of the earth and every few years, at the foot of the volcano, hikers gather from around the world who come to soak up the special energy. Perhaps this is probably why the famous French writer Jules Verne, selected Snaefellsjökull as the cover picture for his book "Journey to the Center of the Earth".

Just over two hours' drive from the capital Reykjavik, you can discover a fascinating area with caves naturally carved from lava, geothermal pools, waterfalls and nature in all its glory. It is especially recommended is to take the 2.5 km hiking trail that separates Hellnar and Arnarstapi and enjoy the beautiful scenery, impressive lava rock formations and many sea birds that nest on the cliffs literally a few meters away from the trail.

Hellnar and Arnarstapi Villages

These two small adjacent villages are located in the southern part of the Snæfellsnes peninsula. There is a 2.5 km hiking trail that connects the two villages, where in ancient times served as the main road and was crossed on horseback. Here visitors are exposed to charming landscapes of lava fields and in the summer, view the nesting areas of sea birds such as the Arctic seagulls who are record migrators who prefer to roam in daylight. The seagulls migrate from the North Pole to the South Pole every six months and spend the summer months there. Anyone visiting is asked to asked to walk only on marked footpaths to avoid harming the nesting sites.


A small fishing village in the southern part of the Snæfellsnes peninsula and at the foot of Mount Stapafell. Due to the natural harbor, Arnarstapi was a big trading point for commercial fishing boats that anchored here to unload merchandise in the 16th century when the Danes ruled Iceland and the village flourished for more than 200 years. Now the local population has shrunk considerably and it is a small and quiet village. If you take a trip along the coast, you will discover eye-catching forms of lava rocks and colonies of sea birds.

What is there to see and do in Arnarstapi?

Gatklettur Arch Rocks

A perfect place for photography enthusiasts, this is a huge, arch shaped, rock formation that stands between the beach and the sea, near the port of Arnarstapi.

Bárðar Snæfellsáss Statue

When walking along Arnarstapi coastline you will come across a large stone sculpture of a man in a Viking helmet. This is the sculpture of Bárðar Snæfellsáss, whose father according to Icelandic saga, was a huge troll and his mother was human. He reached the shores of Snæfellsáss from Norway with his family, and many places across the region carry his name and there are legendary saga stories about his adventures. According to local myth, he is the Safeguard of the Snæfellsáss peninsula and his spirit helps those who travel around the peninsula.


This village is a few kilometers away from Arnarstapi and during the 18th century, the port of Hellnar was one of the central places along the Snæfellsáss peninsula but over the years has been demoted and now is a tiny village classed as a picturesque tourist gem with a hotel, visitor center, rocky shore and green fields.

What to see and do in Hellnar?

Maria's Spring - Maríulind

A spring who's source is beneath the lava. In 1230, a bishop called Guðmundur the Good came to visit Hellnar. He asked for water for him and his men and an old man led them to a nearby spring. The men drank water and watered their horses. The weather was cloudy, but just when they were about to leave, the sun appeared in the sky and the Virgin Mary appeared before them, accompanied by three angels. Maria asked the bishop to bless the water and give them healing powers, and so he did. In 1989, the residents of Hellnar purchased a statue of the Virgin Mary and placed it next spring. According to locals, the water still has healing powers and you are invited to judge for yourself.


An incredibly cute café hidden away between the hills and sea cliffs. It is recommended to visit here either before or after a hike in the area and enjoy coffee in porcelain cups, hot chocolate, freshly baked cakes and delicious fish soup. .

The statue of Guðríður and the first European born in America

A small statue depicting a woman in a Viking boat with a baby on her shoulder, holding her hand. According to the sagas, she was Viking Guðríður Þorbjarnardóttir, born around AD 980. She lived in Greenland and then went with a delegation to North America (Canada of today) around 1000 AD in an attempt to settle on the newly discovered continent. It was here that Guðríður had her first son, Snorri, considered the first European born in America. However, despite the hopes to settle in North America the delegation finally returned to Greenland and later to Iceland because of conflicts with Native Americans. Guðríður like all other residents of Iceland at this time, converted to Christianity at that time, continued to travel and even visited the Vatican in Rome. Sagas regarding her contradict themselves but as she is mentioned in numerous sagas, there is a reasonable doubt that this is indeed the truth.

Food and Lodging

At the end of the trail, if you travelling from Arnarstapi, on the right side just below Hellnar village it is recommended to take a break in a little café there, with terrace overlooking the sea. The café serves delicious cakes, snacks and coffee, which are a great recipe to end a pleasurable day. (Open in summer only)

Map of Hellnar and Arnarstapi